Sunday, October 22, 2017

Alumni reaction to the social club policy

A fascinating set of alumni letters appears in the current Harvard Magazine. The picture that emerges is a good deal more nuanced than the broad-brush stereotyping of social clubs in the Clark-Khurana report and associated administrative writings. Joan Hutchins '61, past president of the Board of Overseers and one of Harvard's most dedicated alumnae, describes herself as "appalled" by the policy and calls on the faculty to reject it. Heather Furnas, a distinguished plastic surgeon whose daughter graduated from Harvard this past spring, ties the importance of women's clubs to women's professional development, and dryly notes that her daughter joined a women's club only after being rejected by both Crimson Key and the Advocate. Like others, Furnas notes the lack of either logic or factual basis in the sanctions policy, but she goes a step further by announcing that she is going to stop donating to Harvard.

I cannot think of another time when alumni and parents so strongly spoke out in support of faculty opposition to an administrative action. There is no nostalgia in these voices; they are speaking up on principle and on the basis of their lived experiences. It takes courage to do so; apostasy serves no one's self interest. I am saddened by the fractures this is causing in the Harvard family. But these women are repelled by what Harvard is doing, and I am grateful to them for saying so.

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